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Friday, September 24, 2010


Gregory Peck’s natural gravitas serves him well in this U.S. Cavalry Western built out of bits & pieces from a couple of John Ford classics (FORT APACHE/’48; THE LOST PATROL/’34) and a classical classic (those Greeks @ Thermopylae; ‘300'). Peck’s a by-the-book officer who captures, but refuses to kill a war-crazed Apache. When the Indian escapes, Peck has to hold the neighboring fort that guards the pass with a half dozen misfit soldiers he’s specifically chosen as the most expendable men around. It’s a tasty set-up and Peck makes the most of his carefully chosen outbursts, especially when he finally tells off his motley crew. The acting is odder than usual as these things go (Lon Chaney’s ‘Arab’ & Ward Bond’s dog-faced drunk are pretty OTT), while both Lionel Lindon’s lensing & Gordon Douglas’s action megging are unexpectedly flat. (Douglas sure lays on the blood & violence, but his staging is often perfunctory.) This was one of only two films William Cagney produced without brother James as star and the modest budget shows. Better work comes from Franz Waxman who sneaks some cool solo string lines into his score when he isn’t being asked to ‘Mickey Mouse’ the comedy & action stuff.

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